I’ve been thinking a lot about feelings these days. It’s inescapable given what is going on in my life. After nearly thirty years together, my husband and I are separating. That stirs up a lot. I’ve been riding an emotional tsunami for six months as the life I built began to dissolve. In the beginning there were high peaks and low valleys. Now my emotions have leveled off.
One of the gifts of going through big life transitions is that you are brought abruptly into the present. Your emotions are extreme and rapidly shifting.
One minute you are afraid for your future, the next you are grieving your past, a minute later you’re excited about what might come and what new adventures you could have. It’s an epic wave!
The reward of feelings this intense is that you really feel them. That may sound like a truism, but it’s actually quite astounding. Consider how many times a day you bypass your emotions. How often are you too busy to really connect with what you are feeling? You have to go to work, drive the kids, call your mom—maybe later you can feel. At the end of the day, do you numb out with substances, shopping, exercise, or anything else to avoid feeling?
I am making it a practice to sit with every feeling as it comes. There were days I took myself to the woods and cried for hours. There were nights I lay awake worrying about my family. As I begin to remember who I am as a single woman, I feel excitement returning. I surrender to every emotion—grief, worry, excitement—all of it.
Even now as things are settling into a more joyful rhythm, I feel the emotions in my heart intensely. It’s one of the treasures I take from this life experience. The extremes of months past have leveled off and left me with an acute awareness of how feelings flow through my body. Just this morning, I’ve been visited by worry, happiness, desire for life, contentment.
I sit with each feeling as it comes. Worry that I’m disappointing a friend. Just sit with it. Let it be there. No need to analyze or dissect it. Then it passes and I go on with the day.
Next, I sense excitement for another friend’s visit, just let excitement be present. Let it flow through me, not attaching overly much to the sensation in my body.
As it passes, I feel gratitude and start to contemplate this gift I’ve been given through crisis. I sense desire for dance, play, and living a joyful life rise in me. Just let it come, flow, wash over me, and go.
The practice of “just sitting with it” is really quite simple. Ask yourself these four questions throughout the day:
In time, you won’t have to ask the questions. You’ll notice the emotions in your body instinctively.
Right now, I recognize happiness. It runs through my core, from my belly through my heart and up to my face with a smile. It is bubbly, intense, bright. I sit with it, smiling, just being in this emotion. I’m happy to be able to focus on work again, and there is no need to run from this beautiful sensation of happiness. And just as quickly as it comes, it flows away. That’s all. Just sit with it, notice it, feel it, let it pass.